Polish government takes over Supreme Court
WARSAW: Poland’s ruling party has dismissed growing concern from key allies, including the EU and US and protests at home, by approving an overhaul of the Supreme Court that critics say will undermine judicial independence.
As mass demonstrations continued in cities across the country, senators of the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party agreed in the early hours of Saturday to a bill that would remove all Supreme Court judges except those hand-picked by the justice minister.
The overhaul of the judiciary, coupled with a drive by PiS to expand its powers in other areas, has provoked a crisis in relations with the EU and sparked one of the biggest political conflicts since Poland overthrew communism in 1989.
Tens of thousands of protesters have gathered across Poland for candle-lit vigils daily since Wednesday, demanding that President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, veto the bill. Peaceful demonstrations continued on Saturday evening in dozens of cities, including Warsaw, Krakow and Poznan.
Hundreds of protesters gathered at the Warsaw villa of PiS head Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s de facto leader.
The opposition and most legal experts say the government’s overhaul violates the Polish constitution.
But the government has stood firmly by its plan despite accusations that it is heading toward authoritarian rule. The PiS says the changes are needed to ensure courts serve all Poles, not just the “elites”.
The EU’s executive on Wednesday gave Poland a week to shelve the judicial reforms or risk sanctions.